Did You Know: Japan's Loo Lore

Did You Know: Japan's Loo Lore
Japanese text reading 'kawaya', an old way to address toilets in Japan, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

If you've ever been to Japan, chances are you would have been fascinated if you stepped inside a toilet

Simrran Gill
September 08 , 2020
04 Min Read

Rooted in culture, rituals and habits, Japan is home to various traditions that continue to prevail even today. Even though the country has embraced Western ways of life, it has successfully retained ancient traditions that speak volumes about its culturally obsessed population. 

Not just tea ceremonies, Japan has cultural practices associated with loos as well. Anybody who has ever visited the island country would know that the cherry blossoms here are not the only sight to behold. Japan and its people are obsessed with cleanliness, and that obsession is reflected in the culture of baths, and their quirky, lavish toilets. They even have a ‘Toilet God’ as well as various ‘Toilet Ghosts’. 

Read: The Harry Potter Tour is Coming to Tokyo

In earlier times, people in Japan did not consider the toilet to be part of the house. It would always be found as an additional attachment, a sort of outhouse, with a specially designated pair of slippers meant to be worn only while using the toilet, and not in the house. Before the Westernisation wave in the country, human waste was also used as a fertiliser. 

Toilets in Japan feature a heated seat, a built-in shower with Braille letters on the panel

From museums dedicated to them to being used as an education tool, toilets in Japan have assumed an active role in shaping the minds of the population.  

The obsession with loos means they have come up with some of the most noteworthy toilets in the world. Over the years, the Japanese population have invested in their loos. While most people across the globe would not define their time in the loo as tranquil, or comfortable, the Japanese have ensured that it is exactly that. A climate-controlled seat? Check. Want to lift the seat without touching it? Check. Automatic deodoriser? Check. You name it and the Japanese have it installed in their bathrooms. 

One of the prime players behind the revolutionary toilet technology is Toto, Japan’s key maker of the washlet range. Originally designed for hospitals and nursing homes, Toto is was an American invention that took over Japan’s loos by tapping into the population’s fixation with cleanliness. And today the range can be found installed in all homes, departmental stores and at other public places.

 
 
 
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A post shared by shibuyasan_ (@shibuyasan_) on Aug 18, 2020 at 11:14pm PDT

Even public loos in Japan boast of unconventionally higher standards of cleanliness. Recently, the country also opened toilets in public parks in Tokyo that were completely transparent. Leaving almost everybody confused, these ‘smart glassed’ toilets turn opaque as soon as one locks the doors.

Read: Did You Know About Nagoro, Japan’s Village of Dolls?

 
 
 
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A post shared by The Glass-House CLD (@glasshousecld) on Aug 19, 2020 at 11:30am PDT

The brain child of Pritzker prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban and other leading designers, these cubicles were made to address two primary concerns of the users—cleanliness and privacy. Opened at five locations in the Shibuya neighbourhood, these cubicles allow the users to inspect the loo before using it or paying the money to use it. Post sundown, these cubicles light up and make for the aesthetics inside the parks. These cubicles are a part of the Tokyo Toilet Project organised by the Nippon Foundation. The project aims to install over a dozen cubicles by next spring.


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